Rural women are responsible for half of the world’s food production, and in developing countries, they produce 60 percent to 80 percent of the food, according International Center for Research on Women.
“About 80 percent of food grown in Africa is grown by women,” said Rekha Mehra, official at the center.
“Yet, traditionally, development assistance has mainly be given to men. We need to change this.”
Susy Cheston, vice president of Opportunity International, said female farmers can benefit from improved banking services.
“Savings are extremely important for farmers who have to carry over themselves for 10 months after the harvest. And in most African countries, women value savings more than their male counterparts,” she said.
By focusing on women in sub-Saharan Africa, development institutions are also trying to make up for governmental and legal obstacles to gender equality.
“Constitutionally in Kenya, custom law overrides the principle of gender equality, with the result that women own only 1 percent of land in their own names,” said Ms. Ellis of the World Bank. “It’s a major limitation to women’s rights and also a huge bridle for food production.”
Some progress in reducing gender-based discrimination has been made in sub-Saharan Africa.
Cameroon has enacted laws that grant women new rights, including the ability to travel without male escorts, open bank accounts and register businesses on their own, without their husbands’ consent.
In Uganda, the World Bank works closely with the Ministry of Finance.
“Over the years, the government has instituted several policies to liberate women from socioeconomic and political discrimination,” said George Ndahendekire Ndyamuba, first secretary of the Ugandan Embassy in Washington.
For example, in 1995, the government enshrined affirmative action in the country’s constitution.
Recent statistics indicate that 69 percent of active borrowers from microfinance institutions in Uganda are women, Mr. Ndyamuba added.
“Women play a vital role in reducing household poverty through their preferential investment in nutrition, education of the young and their capacity to manage business,” he said.
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